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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 10:37 GMT
For and against: The bed-sheet protester
Photo by Gerry Johnson
Cliffs over Matlock almost dwarf the group's banner
This week we ask Britons from a variety of walks of life for their view on war with Iraq. Working mum Kathy Mitchell, 46, of Matlock Bath in Derbyshire, recounts her bed-sheet peace protest.

To me it is both sad and stupid that our response to terrorism is war. I cannot accept that there is no other way.

Sussex protesters stage a naked anti-war protest
To reach more people, we decided to do something bold

When Bush turned his attention from Afghanistan, we were urged to accept that Iraq was linked to terrorism. I find that hard to believe. Saddam Hussein has not threatened surrounding states, let alone the US or UK.

The Iraqi people have suffered so much since the Gulf War and I hate to be associated with any country which will increase that suffering. I believe a war in Iraq will prove a humanitarian disaster and create enemies for us all over the world.

So I was happy to join my neighbours to form an anti-war group. At the first meeting there were perhaps 15. Now our contact list has 150 names. Our petition has more than 1,000 signatures - not bad for rural Derbyshire.

To reach more people, we decided to do something bold - another small group had spelt out "Peace" with their naked bodies and the photo had appeared in the Guardian.

Message unfurls

Someone suggested a banner off High Tor, the Peak District's most conspicuous cliff. When I said "I've got two spare sheets", I didn't understand why everyone laughed until I realised the size the banner would have to be - from the road, a climber looks like an ant!

Peace march
Rallies take place across the world on Saturday
With three sewing machines, an 80-metre roll of red material and my two sheets, we cut and sewed to a plan which my husband (who is good at maths) and I had designed in a pub that lunchtime: "No War" in 3 m high letters. Lots of the group came to pin, stitch and make the tea.

With BBC Midlands cameras watching last Sunday morning, two skilled abseilers lowered themselves and the banner over the cliff more than 100 m above us.

Would they be able to control it in the wind? Would the tapes and stitches hold? Everything held, and the sun came out as the last corner was pulled into position. We all cheered.

On Saturday, my family and I will be on one of the four coaches booked by our group for the peace rally. If other areas of the country are as well represented, more than half a million will join the demo in London.

From the remainder of our red material, we've made banners which read Matlock District, with a dove of peace. Look out for us.

Some of your comments so far:

I probably have more reason than most to hate Saddam and want to him removed from power - my father was held hostage by him before the first Gulf War. Yet I do not believe there has been enough evidence, despite what the US says, to justify going to war on Iraq. After all it's the people of Iraq who will suffer the most, not those in power, and I fear that yet another generation will grow up to hate the West. You just need to look to New York to see how destructive that can be.

In 1939, the US Congress refused to back the president's call to support Churchill on the grounds that Hitler was a European problem. By the time US troops were committed to war, the death sentences of 6 million Jews and millions of Russians had already been written. If we decide to follow people like Chamberlain and try to pacify corrupt and aggressive regimes, I fear we are writing death sentences on millions. When the chips are down, will the nay-sayers be happy with that burden on their over-eager consciences?
Dave, UK

The person these peace rallies will bring most succour to is Saddam. The West is duplicitous, the West created Saddam - this we know. But none of this helps those Iraqis who are desperate to be liberated from a regime which is among the worst in the world in human rights terms. Morally it may come down to the lesser of two humanitarian evils - war or the continuance of this regime. I accept that a protracted war is likely to be by far the greater evil, and maybe even a short war would be.
Simon, UK

Simon, that is a gross simplification. The rallies are intended to provide support for the people of Iraq. For the starving children Save the Children tell us will suffer and for the countless conscripted soldiers and oppressed civilians who face Tony Blair's moral choice - of starvation in sanctions or death in warfare. Let's not kid ourselves that we are invading Iraq to liberate their people - we turned a very blind eye to these atrocities until recently. I for one cannot stand by and watch lives endangered and I will be marching.
Katy, UK

Kathy writes "Saddam Hussein has not threatened surrounding states". Has she chosen to forget the invasion of Kuwait with its attendant atrocities? What about the Scuds fired at Israel? And what about the Iran-Iraq war?
Christoph, UK

I hope these people enjoy their right to protest - it's something Iraqis don't have. As sanctions (which people seem to see as the only viable alternative to war to bring about change) are being used to make life worse for them, war is the only option left open to us.
Stuart, London, UK

War on Iraq is not the answer to terrorism or Saddam's regime. the Iraqi people have suffered enough we need to find a peaceful solution to disarmament. There have been too may wars, too many dead, do we not learn from the past? What is the root of terrorism, why these attacks? These are the questions we should be asking and finding answers to. Thank God for the French and Germans who are willing to make a stand and reign in those eager for war.
Shirina Ibrahim, Egypt

Everyone is concentrating on the cost, in one form or another, of a war. A more probing question is what's the cost of not going to war? I'm sure this is a major factor in Blair's thinking. How dependant has the UK become on the US? What would be the economic, and security cost implications of damaging that relationship? I believe we are now so dependant on US trade, technology and intelligence exchange that we are no longer able to act autonomously. A situation I find distasteful.
Chris, UK

Stuart, not everyone sees sanctions as the only viable alternative to war. Chris, lets make an effort to act autonomously. The US is out of order in its current approach to world politics (its response to September 11, war on Afghanistan, war on Iraq, Star Wars...) and it's up to us to try to prevent this from happening. Our government doesn't seem to want to, particularly with the present lack of a debate on these vital issues in Parliament, so it is up to us to do what we can.
Kathryn, Norwich, England

Stuart, I have to take issue with your polarised view of the situation. Thursday's headlines on the extended range of Iraqi missiles relate to information voluntarily handed over to inspectors. This would seem to be a fairly good argument in favour of inspections. If the aim is truly to disarm Saddam, then one of many alternatives to war is the support of this process with UN peacekeepers and a mandate to destroy such weapons that we find.
Simon Handby, England

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We ask Britons from a variety of walks of life for their view on war with Iraq

See also:

12 Feb 03 | Politics
15 Jan 01 | Middle East
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